By Larry Cherkasov
Slow, plodding xylophone mallets pace the viewer’s heartbeat as Suzy Bannion makes her way into the frame, shrouded in black, face bouncing off yellow light, mascara projecting her eyeball out of the celluloid. With bated breath, she spies on a witch’s coven performing the rites of its leader, the yet-unseen Helena Markos, queen witch of the hellish Tanz Dance Academy. Because her peers have already met unlucky fates, she remains an attractive victim—horror movie precedent does not excuse a protagonist from impending death. Dario Argento stretches the suspense, loosely protecting Bannion with curtain as she watches her potential murder unfold, replete with unheimlich doppelgangers, blood-streaked Nosferatus, and reptilian skin piercings. Suspiria boasts impressive pacing because there are no jump scares, just dread until it happens.
The epilogue demonstrates Dario Argento’s perverse understanding of a cooldown after the strange and confused climax. Suzy Bannion descends hallways and staircases to confront her final fear: that the dance academy does not need Markos to haunt and still bides its time to induct her into its body count. The implosion of the house during the last few minutes of the film boasts crystal explosions of vases, pots, doorknobs and chandeliers, flashes of red and deep blue and green, picturing a fractured debutante ball of a denouement—there is time yet that a shard of glass tack Bannion’s face to the wooden floor. As the final frozen frame of flames licks up the haunted house, the carved-up blue image of Bannion’s dead predecessor still sews itself into the screen as an irritating ocular sun spot.